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Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

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60                                    LIFE   OF
source of healthy nourishment to the negroes.     W<)
enumerate this  tree,  especially,  in   a   biography   of
Humboldt, as he himself states that few of the^ nume-
rous and remarkable objects he met with on his joxir-
11 ey have made such a vivid impression on hLs inincl,
as this cow-tree, which resembles the star-tree in form,
Tins impression, is partly induced by our early asso-
ciations ; for everything relating to milk and corn ox-
cites  a   natural interest in man, which is not  onlyw
based on a thirst for a knowledge of natural frtcts, but
which arises from the idea and feeling that without
milk, from the mother's breast upwards, and without
flour,  we  could not have existed.    To this may bo
ascribed the  religious  veneration  for corn,   and   for
milk-giving animals, with ancient and modem nations
As milk is  generally considered only as an animal
product, the idea of a milk-producing tree is the inoro
startling, as one has always doubted its existence); and
therefore Humboldt, whose soul was so susceptible to
new general impressions, without therefore prejudicing
his scientific analyzing powers, gazed with astonishment
at the wonderful tree.    He thus gives way to his im-
pressions in its description:  "Here are no  splendid
shadowy trees, no majestic streams, and no eternally
snow-covered mountains, which mightily move us.    A
few drops of a vegetable sap remind us of the almighti-
ness and fruitfulness of nature.    On the sterile decli-
vity of a rock there growls a tree whose leaves are dry
and tough, whose thick, woody roots can hardly pene-
trate the stony soil; for several months of the year no
refreshing rain moistens its foliage, the brandies seem
dead and shrivelled;   but make  an incision in  tlxo
stem, and a sweet, nourishing milk flows from it.    At
sxmrise, this vegetable spring is the richest; then the
negroes and the natives come from all sides, provided
with large vessels to  collect the milk,  which turns
yellow,  and thickens on the surface.    Some  empty
their vessels, at once, under the tree, others take the
milk to their children.    One seems to see the estab-
lishment of a shepherd who distribiites the milk of
his herds/*